Disclaimer: Tite Kubo owns Bleach and he'd be horrified to see this.
Also, 14th century mystics own themselves and they'd kill themselves if they saw this. And if they weren't already dead.
AN: I wrote this because I had to do something with all the crap I had to learn for my MA class in the Doctrine of Love in 14th century mystics. Honestly, that stuff is boring and pointless. Until you decide to see way too much subtext.
The AN at the end explains a lot of things about the context of this story. Meanwhile, enjoy. I'll go get hit by lightning as God sees this.
Dedication: To Peppermint Quartz, whose wonderful, wonderful Touched/First Contact series got me to misread all the God/soul mentions in 14th century texts as Aizen/Gin. Her stories are absolutely fascinating and her Aizen and Gin are probably the best I've ever read. Go check her out!
The Ladder of Perfection
It was the year of our Lord 1365. A young man was half-lying, half-sitting on his bed at night, leaning against the wall, wasting a perfectly good candle by staring into space and thinking. His father had already retired, while the soul maid was probably cleaning up the kitchen. His mother had died in 1348, the year of the plague, along with some servants that he couldn't remember. He, his father and his two sisters had survived. They would be married soon enough. As for him, well, he would go to study law. He would make a life for himself. The way it had been decided and he himself wanted.
The young man's name was Walter Hilton, but it wasn't a name he felt particularly connected with. If he were to be truthful, there was any number of things he felt disconnected from, but he wasn't truthful. In his heart of hearts, there was a pain that he could trace no source of and find no cure for – so he gladly hid it behind a smile.
But tonight, as the wind blew softly outside and became draft inside, he couldn't pretend as well as he would have liked. He'd met an older man on his way to becoming a hermit just that day, spoken with him and found out that...
Well. But that would remain a secret. He had better things to do than being a hermit. And besides, he was cursed with Saint Augustin's own curse.
To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved. I defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness.
Walter, like Augustin, was lustful. It plagued him, it burned him, it hurt him. He would marry soon for the sake of quenching that lust, of sinking himself deep inside a woman, who'd grasp his hair and pull it and...
No. The way his thoughts were going was forbidden. If only he wouldn't feel the stir in his very loins, if only his most English part didn't rise up to attention.
He pushed himself up in an energetic, youthful, resigned way from his half-lying position, going through a crouch and continuing his motion in an almost acrobatic roll over his head in a diagonal until he landed out of bed, his toes touching the floor, slipping from below him intentionally, only to land him on his knees, flushed, with his hands in a praying motion on his bed. He was young and athletic and weird gymnastics around his room were a favorite pastime, if one were to judge over the ease of his strange motion.
"God," he said, half-smiling with little to no embarrassment. "I've been bad again. I'll confess later to the priest, but I thought You might want to hear about it from me in private, first, since I feel too embarrassed to say it to the good Father the way I'd want to."
He gave a small cough.
"I met a hermit today, by the way. I'd love to serve You like that. I'd love to have that sort of life. But You see, I have this thing between my legs, God, that won't let me. I've seduced one of the peasant girls in a village not far from here yesterday and it was so good, you wouldn't believe. I loved the way she panted, and begged for more and rubbed herself against me, all over. If I were a woman, God, I'd do the same. But I'm a man. I dived into her as if I were starved and thirsty for her flesh, and I was. I had her, not once, but thrice. I couldn't get enough. I want more, my Lord, always more. I burn within, there's a flame inside of me that no water can quench. If the marriage between You and my soul were a physical one, with what gladness I'd give myself to you entirely. I'd be your bride and you should be my bridegroom – I don't care. It's not a sin as Sodom's, if it's You, is it? I wouldn't care, I wouldn't mind. My lust is for anyone who walks, but my love is just for You. Aid me, Lord. And now, if You don't mind, I'll get back on my bed and disgrace myself entirely, wishing it were to Your pleasure."
It wasn't as if he had actually heard the word, but the young man felt it deep inside his mind, as if some unknown part of him was correcting his speech. But he was entirely sure he hadn't meant 'debauch', although that was indeed what he had in mind.
"Eh?" he thought, trying to trace that.
'Debauch is the word you're looking for,' said the thought that he had heard, growing in intensity the more he thought of it.
"I will, eh, debauch, myself for You, consider it an offering," he said, giving a very embarrassed grin. "Oh, I did not just say that," he muttered, turning a deep, distressed red. But the thought from before returned to say:
The young man decided that looking further into the matter was a bad idea, considering where it tended to lead to. He gave a nervous smile in the general direction of everything – since God was everywhere – and climbed back on the bed, where he pulled his clothes apart. It wasn't as good as an actual woman, but he'd be able to focus after that and apologize.
However, the moment he took his problem into hand, so to speak, he found that his earlier thought wasn't letting him go, sticking to him lustfully, bringing to mind the idea of God so that he would debauch himself with it. "I'll go to hell for this," he muttered, sliding his hand up and down slowly, trying to think of women and being unable to.
Finally, he resolved to give up. There was a limit to how sinful he could be.
He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall. Well, that was a way to stop giving in to his lust, he supposed, but it simply wasn't a pleasant one. He would probably be all the better off without this, but sometimes sin was so sweet that you still wanted it against knowing better, against having a very clear obstacle before you, against many things.
When he opened his eyes again, he saw at the foot of his bed a tall man, brown haired, brown eyed, handsome, radiating peace.
"What the-?" he asked. "Who are..."
He realized that this was an apparition. The figure seemed to glow with an inner glow, to radiate from inside invisibly and palpably.
"Don't you recognize me, my Gin?"
The name that rolled off the man's tongue made the younger one jump in surprise. It wasn't that it was far from 'Walter', his given name, but that it was the one he had always called himself in his mind, the one he had never shared with anybody else. No witch could ever work her magic on him through a name, since his real one was his own delicious secret.
He studied this stranger – the man seemed to radiate, to give off a something ineffable, wonderful, full of light and pleasure. Whatever he was, he was no devil, but an angel. Or was he more? Gin did not dare to hope for more, although now his heart beat fast in recognition, saying to him that this presence, this very sweet, delightful, intoxicating scentless scent, soundless music, was what he felt in an answer to his prayers.
"My Lord?" he asked, almost choking with emotion.
"I have a secret name too, Gin," He said.
"The Jews were right, then?"
"A secret name for you to share with Me. One under which I shall show Myself to you. It is only fair, since I know yours."
Gin waited with a bated breath, still unable to dare to believe that this was really happening to him.
"Aizen," He said.
"What does it mean?" the young man asked, shivering, but unable to tell he was doing so. His fingers trembled against his sheets, his lips were slightly open in transfixed amazement.
God walked gently towards him. Gin thought he would die from the sheer emotion of the closeness, but he was blessed enough to hang on to his sinful flesh. Aizen leaned down, putting one hand on either side of his body, bending towards his ear.
"Indigo dye," he murmured.
The young man blinked and felt reality come back to him somewhat through the nonsense of that answer. "Pardon?"
Aizen chuckled and pulled back, his eyes looking deeply into Gin's from just a palm's distance away. "Well, it's one of the meanings. I'm happy to see it pulled you out of your stupor."
"Aizen..." Gin repeated, tasting it. "Am I deluding?"
"Something akin to it. You may call it a revelation. Ah, but I have not yet told you about the other meanings. To be caught by desire, or attachment. Lust, in your case. I am the name you must put to the torture pulsing through your veins. I am the cause of it and its deliverer."
"Is it to test me?"
"Maybe. But the third meaning of my name is complete love. The love of everything. I forgive you your weaknesses and trespassing, for it was I who placed them within you, who desired them, who wishes to see you in the full glory of a sin committed in My name."
Gin felt his throat dry and his lips parch at His speech. His limbs had had all strength seep away from them, his heart was beating hard against his chest, rising in his throat. He wondered if he really understood what He was saying.
"Touch yourself for Me."
He did understand, then, but his mind refused to accept this, battling against his ingrained teachings, his morals.
"Gin, a soul that wishes to know spiritual things needs first to have the knowledge of itself," Aizen murmured. "You cannot know what is above yourself unless you first know yourself. And I shall wish you to know Me. Now. Touch yourself."
Dazed, the young man reached forward through his open clothing, taking his length in hand, but not moving forward yet. Knowing Him? Biblically? Or just as a metaphor? But if God was saying it, wouldn't it be Biblical, anyway? Or divine? No, wait, he was confusing himself and getting distracted and...
"Do it, Gin."
He barely dared to move his hand, but once he did, the sensation threatened to overwhelm him. His fingers ran all over his length, as they would have done in previous times, but this time every caress felt so full of light and love and tenderness that he threatened to spill with each instant of every moment that passed. His entire body tensed as he ordered himself to last, having some awareness that he should, knowing he would hate himself should this end too soon. His back arched against the wall and he bucked into his palm.
"I... can't..." he panted.
"Sweet Gin. Just a little longer?"
The words were nectar, filling him with bliss as they touched his ears, rolling like honey from Aizen's lips to his own. He sucked in a breath as if he were drinking air that tasted of the Word and forced himself to last.
"Virtuous Gin," Aizen chuckled, His hand placing itself above the young man's own. "I'll tell you what I want. I want you to cry out My name, My name that I have given you as you rise in bliss."
"My parents, my sisters..."
"What? You still think of them. Fear not. They won't hear you. I will not let them hear you."
Aizen's hand made a fast motion that brought Gin over the edge instantly. His entire body tensed with pleasure and he arched off the bed, crying out the name of his God as loudly as he had never dared to cry in pleasure before. His hand reached out nearly blindly and he grabbed Aizen to him as waves of delight turned into a sea of bliss that nearly made him pass out from sheer intensity.
When he recalled himself, Aizen was chuckling, His head leaning against Gin's shoulder.
"That was..." he began.
"Not all that will happen to you tonight. Listen, dearest. The first state is knowledge – you knew that God, that I, existed. And you had faith. It is enough for salvation. Now is the second state, in which it is all love and pleasure – it is the second state. But there is a third state."
"A... third state?"
"These tears of joy you cry for me," Aizen said, touching Gin's cheeks, which were indeed damp, now that the young man thought about it, "the burning desire, which is not sin, for it is in My name, I command it and give it to you and cleanse of all sin through it... They are good, because they make you understand what the reward for obedience is, what fulfilling My every wish, no matter the cost, means. Are you willing to offer Me more, though, Gin? To receive more? Your entire body and soul, are you able to give them to Me?"
Gin tried to catch a breath. It was so fast, much too fast for him too bear and yet he feared to say 'no' unless he should lose all of it. This was God, his God, and he loved Him and he would do anything, but he felt confused. His entire world was upside down and whatever he might have expected, it was not this, not a wonderful lover, but somebody to punish him for the weakness of his flesh. He was afraid, to tell the truth, afraid to take the plunge despite his adoration. He had loved God since he had been a child and he had always wanted to be His, but a part of him pulled him back.
"I am unworthy," he heard himself say.
"Good Gin," Aizen said, smiling. "But don't you know? Not because you are worthy, but because you are unworthy should you love Me. And if you have My love, then that is because I have deemed you worthy of it."
"I had expected something else for my sins, my Lord," the young man dared to tell Him. "I expected pain and tests of fire. I expected you to smite me and hurt me so that I would be cleansed."
Something shined in Aizen's eye when He heard that, perhaps a thrill, perhaps a joy. "Later, My love. We shall do that, too." His chuckle was deep and warm and, to Gin's mind, sounded like the punishment was to be delightful. It made the young man begin to harden again, thinking of the pain that his God had promised. "Eager, aren't you?"
"I am willing to take the third step, my Lord. Which is it?"
Aizen's smile was wonderful, full of love and delight. "It is both knowledge and love, My Gin. You will be ravished and taken from all bodily senses. You will be unable to have any affections for those who are not I. You will see the Truth, which is I, and know soft, sweet, burning love in this ravishing. You will become one with Me, for a time. Mind you, this will only be a hint of what you will come to feel in heaven, where you and I will truly become One. And nothing shall ever take us apart."
Gin swallowed. "My Lord, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux... mentioned in his sermons that kissing was the..."
Aizen's lips were suddenly on his, hot and demanding. He was pressed back onto the bed forcefully while He climbed on top of him, pinning him down. "Are you certain you want this, My sweet, sweet Gin?"
"You will submit to Me and My will on all occasions? If you refuse now, I shall judge you by usual standards, but you cannot be Mine and yet betray Me..."
"I swear." Gin's typical impertinence rose up without input from his mind. "I already said I would. Why do You keep asking?" The moment his mind caught up, though, he felt a sudden lump in his throat, but Aizen only laughed.
"It's customary," He dismissed it.
"And You can't ravish me. It implies force. I'm willing."
"That silver-tongued impertinence of yours will only get you into trouble in the real world, My sweet. Temper it, but..."
"I am sorry, my Lord."
"...not around Me. You must hide nothing from Me."
Gin shivered. Aizen lowered His head to nibble on his neck, teeth scraping against the unblemished skin lightly before biting hard, but not hard enough to break the skin, sending mixed pain and pleasure coursing through the young man's body. Gin cried out, trying to arch up from the bed, but was held down and the pain became nearly a memory as a warm, wet tongue lapped at the newly forming bruise; he found himself mewing, unable to control his body's reactions. Not that he wanted to.
A hand brushed against his groin and Gin realized in some distant part of his mind that was still capable of thought that he was much too sensitive, buckling like that under such a light caress. But this was Aizen. His Aizen. Whom he had adored in some shape or another since he had been conscious of himself and of Him. It was like a fantasy come true, but one he had never been aware of having. One his mind had never dared to conceive, forbidden, dark and now, now... not only allowed, but happening to him.
"Naked, Gin," Aizen purred. "You have to be naked."
"Will You..." he couldn't finish the though, but He knew what he meant. In response, He threw his own white garments on the floor before nearly ripping Gin's off and leaving him entirely bare on rough covers.
"Do you love Me, Gin?"
The young man found himself pressed against the bed again, looking up into intoxicating brown eyes and a smile kinder than any creature in creation could ever possibly have had. There was lust in its purest form, in its divine form, controlled and mastered, all there for Gin to adore in the humanity that his Aizen manifested.
He moaned his affirmation to Him again and again as His fingers breeched him in the most intimate of places, opening him to receive Aizen within. Gin was ignited with arousal, burning with desire. He was desperate for more, aching deep inside for another release, for unity with his divine lover. Between pants, he said something of the sort, bucking against fingers, trying to shove himself deeper on them. Aizen seemed both amused and, if it were possible, aroused at display.
"Very well, then," He purred, replacing His fingers with His length.
Aizen filled him completely, so much so that it was almost painful. They were still for a few seconds while Gin caught his breath. Then Aizen started moving, at first slowly, almost tentatively, as if verifying if Gin was alright, but how could Gin not be? He was safe and in the seventh heaven, in Aizen's arms, pinned down by a delicious, warm weight. But seeing the willingness of the young man, He picked up the pace, sinking deep, hard, fast, but before Gin could get used to it, he changed the pacing again, light, easy, fast, then deep, profound, slow, switching whenever Gin seemed to get used to the feeling, driving the younger man up the walls with lust, getting him to beg by retreating nearly entirely at all the right moments.
Gin lost himself in the sensations, crying out with pleasure and encouragement, or disappointment and desire whenever Aizen wanted him to. His body was nearly unable to stand it, his eyes were opened wide, but they could barely see anything but brown eyes boring into his. He was surrounded by Aizen, wrapped in His essence. He gave himself willingly, writhing in pleasure. His fingers grabbed onto His back, his nails digging into the skin.
"Please!" he cried for what seemed to be the millionth time, weeping freely as Aizen switched to a light, teasing pace when he had been about to reach his peak. "Please..."
"Please what, my Gin?" the voice seemed to come from everywhere, echoing in his soul.
Aizen pulled out entirely and Gin cried out in a disappointment so great it threatened to break him in half. He arched up, his fingers digging into Him, his head hitting against His shoulder, his voice quivering, his body trembling.
"Please let me come..."
Aizen kissed him deeply, drinking his tears from his lips. He then drove hard into the young man, no longer teasing, hitting hard in the best of spots. Gin felt his soul rise and float with joy as the pleasure increased. He sobbed from sheer overwhelming and tangled his fingers in His hair. The pure delight suddenly grew like a river when the dam is broken, sweeping everything away with it. He pulled Aizen down towards him, clasping to Him as if He were a lifeline, crying himself hoarse with his release. His clenching muscles brought Him to His release, too, and Aizen gasped softly, putting His head down on Gin's shoulder.
"I love You."
"Yes. I love you, too."
Aizen lay down on His back and Gin sprawled all over Him, gasping and shivering. Aizen caressed his head tenderly, then deposited a kiss on his forehead.
"You must rest now, My love."
"I don't want to. I want to stay awake, to be with You as much as I can."
"I will return, dearest, do not worry. Now that you are Mine, I will keep coming. Mind you, you must never touch any other but Me again for this to happen."
Gin smiled with a profound joy. "I don't want anybody else but You."
Sometime later, Aizen rose from the bed. He dressed, then picked up his glasses out of his pocket and put them on. He looked back at the sleeping form of the young man. Gin was delicious, a true find. He would be very good when Aizen's plan would be put into practice. If he remained as willing and as enthusiastic, he would be the best of followers.
Aizen removed the wards he had placed around the room, silently wished Gin that his family would not come to see him in his debauched state, but that he would have time to arrange himself, then he looked up.
"What are You going to do about it?" he asked, smiling his usual smile. Nothing answered. He hadn't expected it to. The field was ripe for the taking, so many fools ready to be deceived in the name of a God who wouldn't protect them...
When Aizen was God, he would make certain that this changed.
Now, he had to see what to do about that Dame Julian, who liked Christ so much. He wouldn't touch her with a six-foot pole. The woman was well-nigh insane in her obsessions and nowhere nearly as tasty as Gin. Maybe he could appear to her as the Father?... Or make that better yet, the Mother. That would be devilishly beautiful, if he could convince her to worship him as the Mother, despite seeing him as male. And he would call her... Hinamori. Oh, the possibilities...
It was astonishing what invisibility and a bit of reiatsu could do. Soon enough, he would introduce himself to Soul Society and Seireitei and earn a status there. But until then, he could use some more followers. They wouldn't remember him as such after they died, but they would remember their feelings for him, which was precisely what he wanted.
He would still have seductive Gin worshiping him with his body and Hinamori not touching him. Yes. Perfection.
Gin woke up the next morning to a bed smelling of sex and sin. He loved it. He'd had this wonderful dream this night before, that God had come and...
He felt his legs too sticky for that to be true. He reached down to touch himself and noticed that he was sore in places he had no job being sore in. And he was naked.
Opening his eyes, he saw that his room was a mess and his clothes were scattered all about. Just as he and Aizen had left it. The sore bothered him, as did the bruises he noticed on his hips and arms. These weren't the signs of God, they were the signs of a real person.
But not a normal person. One strong enough to radiate love and charm, one who could deceive even Gin into sinning in the worst of ways. A wonderful lover, excruciatingly talented. But not God, not if the signs on his skin were of any import.
He got up and got dressed. He didn't know what it all meant, but he didn't like the difference between his thoughts and emotions last night and the clearness of his head this morning. He felt as if he had woken up from a snare, an entangling, darkly seductive web.
If there was one place where Aizen had miscalculated, it was in thinking that Gin wouldn't catch on.
Sitting gingerly on his bed, remembering the very real physical sensations of the previous night, the young man considered. Maybe Aizen was not evil. Or maybe he was very strong. Either way, Gin had to be very, very careful. Pretend he suspected nothing, play along for all intents and purposes until things cleared up. Until then...
Until then, he had never felt so deliciously sated in his entire life. And he could live with that. For awhile.
Gin smiled. He liked that, the smile. He would keep smiling, no matter what.
AN: Most of the details are either historically accurate, or at the very least compliant with the history I've managed to find. Walter Hilton was a 14th century mystic in Great Britain. He was born sometime around 1340 or 1345 and died in 1396. He was strongly inspired by Saint Augustin and he was a source of inspirations for other later theologians due to his Ladder of Perfection, which is drawn upon here here. He did study law (Wiki says he was a bachelor of law). He became a hermit sometime late in life (1386?...) As with all things that happened so long ago, many incidents remain shrouded in mystery.
The quote from the beginning is from St. Augustin.
The quotes I steal from Hilton and entirely butcher are from the Ladder of Perfection. The idea of 'three states' comes from his degrees of contemplation of God: 1. knowledge; 2. love; 3. both love and knowledge.
Bernard of Clairvaux was a French saint who had an obsession with the metaphor of the kiss in religion. (he wrote a lot of sermons on the Song of Songs – 86, if memory serves correctly).
Dame Julian of Norwich was a woman mystic who fell ill in 1373 or so and had visions of Christ's Passion in very vivid graphic detail. He told her that He would suffer for humanity as often as possible. He also asked whether His suffering pleased her. She was very enthusiastic about Him. And she also believed that He represented the aspect of Motherhood of God. Yep. "Our Mother, Jesus". That sort of thing.
There really was a plague in 1348. I don't know if Hilton's mother died in it. I found no details on his family whatsoever, so I invented them.
'Aizen' really does mean what Aizen says it means. The first is the official spelling of his name. The second is a Buddhist concept. The third doesn't exist as an actual Japanese word, but you can create it from 'ai', 'love' and 'zen', 'everything'.
Footnote 1: The Second Book, Part 2, Chapter XI: "A SOUL that would know spiritual things needs first to have the knowledge of itself; for she cannot have the knowledge of a thing that is above herself, unless she have first the knowledge of herself."
The First Book, Part 1, Chapter V: "[...]a gift of God, for out of it spring many sweet tears, burning desires, and still mournings, or contrition for sin, which scour and cleanse the heart from all filth of sin, and causeth it to melt into a wonderful sweetness in Jesus Christ, and to become obedient and ready to fulfil all God's will, insomuch that it seems to him he makes no reckoning what becomes of himself, so that God's will were fulfilled in him, and by him, with many other such good inspirations and desires which cannot be reckoned."The Second Book, Part 2, Chapter IV: "and say thus: Not because I am worthy, but because I am unworthy, therefore would I love God; for if I had His love, that would make me worthy;"The First Book, Part 1, Chapter VII: "The third sort, which is as perfect Contemplation as can be had in this life, consisteth both in knowing and affecting; that is, in knowing and perfect loving of God, [...] and afterwards, when it pleaseth God to visit him, he is taken in from all earthly and fleshly affections, […] and, as it were, much ravished and taken up from his bodily senses, and then by the grace of the Holy Ghost is enlightened, to see by his understanding Truth itself (which is God) and spiritual things, with a soft, sweet, burning love in God, so perfectly that he becometh ravished with His love, and so the soul for the time is become one with God, and conformed to the image of the Trinity. The beginning of this Contemplation may be felt in this life, but the full perfection of it is reserved unto the bliss in heaven. […] he who by ravishing of love is become united to God, God and that soul are not now two, but both one. And surely in this oneing consisteth the marriage which passeth betwixt God and the soul, that shall never be dissolved or broken."